Rafa Benitez could only wait so long for a Newcastle United takeover
He’s not coming back any time soon.
Instead, Merseyside-based Benitez is set to take over at Everton following the departure of Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid earlier this month.
And, at least in the short term, Benitez won’t be returning to the home dugout at St James’s Park any time soon if, as expected, he’s confirmed as Everton’s new manager.
Benitez left for China after failing to agree a new deal with United owner Mike Ashley two years ago. However, he’s never been far from the thoughts of many fans over the past couple of years, and he would have been part of the conversation going forward had the club been taken over before now.
Benitez, and people close to him, have a relationship with the club’s would-be owners – Ashley is hopeful of resurrecting a proposed £300million sale to a consortium fronted by Amanda Staveley and backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund – and he has been the bookmakers’ favourite to be the club’s next manager.
Benitez’s expected appointment at Everton, which has riled Richard Keys, would upend those odds.
Head coach Steve Bruce, mindful of Benitez’s popularity on Tyneside, has had to choose his words carefully when talking about his predecessor.
Some would say Bruce hasn’t chosen them nearly wisely enough, but, nevertheless, he’s trodden carefully when asked about Benitez, who had been interested in the Everton job in 2016 before he committed his future to United in the wake of the club’s relegation to the Championship.
Bruce now knows he won’t be replaced by Benitez this season, though his future still seemingly hinges on the takeover as he heads into the final year of his contract at St James’s Park.
For now, he’s secure in his position, having been steadfastly backed by Ashley in March following a dismal run of Premier League results. The team, thankfully, finished the season strongly.
Benitez won’t be Newcastle’s next manager unless there’s an 11th-hour change of mind at Everton. Benitez had unfinished business at United, but could only wait so long.
However, the wait for supporters desperate for a change in ownership goes on.